It’s time for the Witch Trials! (not those Witch Trials, don’t worry)
Tiffany goes to do Miss Level’s rounds with Mistress Weatherwax and finds the villagers much more inclined to listen to the stories Granny tells them than the truth Miss Level tells them. Granny lets her go and see Mr. Weavall by herself, and when he asks her to check on his burying money, she finds that the Feegle have left gold behind to replace the copper and silver she stole. She tells Mr. Weavall the whole story, and he decides that since he’s rich now, he’ll propose to the Widow Tussy instead of preparing to die. Tiffany decides that she’s going to draw the hiver away into the mountains and Granny insists on coming with her and insists on leaving the Feels behind, which infuriates them. Tiffany and Granny head into the mountains and stop, settling in amongst boulders. Granny tells Tiffany that shambles are toys—she never uses them because they “got in the way.” Granny borrows an owl and when she comes back in the morning, Tiffany realizes that they’re thinking of the hiver wrong; it won’t come close because it’s got a bit of Tiffany in it, and Tiffany is a little bit scared of Mistress Weatherwax. Petulia arrives; she heard what they were doing and came to check on them. The Witch Trials are today and Granny plans to go.
Petulia leaves and Mistress Weatherwax insists they get moving to the trials even though Tiffany hasn’t figured out what to do about the hiver. Mistress Weatherwax finally tells Tiffany that she’s normally called Granny by the people who’ve earned it, and that Tiffany is welcome to call her that, but the honorific shocks Tiffany, being the same as her own grandmother’s. Still, she decides that it feels right. They arrive at the trials and Tiffany begins to fear the hiver in this space, even with all the witches. Granny has disappeared and the hiver is coming. She knows that her thought about three wishes is the key, so she starts asking folks what the third wish is, and gets clues: Someone says happiness, Miss Tick says more wishes, and then she finds Granny, who tells her that it’s undoing the harm of the other two wishes. Tiffany realizes that the hiver can’t be evil; it gives people what they want. Granny tells her it’s time to face down the hiver. Rob Anybody lands in the shamble Tiffany is trying to make, and she realizes that it will work now because she needs it too, adding the silver horse to it. The hiver arrives and Tiffany welcomes it, promising it is safe with her. It tells her it is aware of everything all the time, and that it has one wish to put the others right: To die.
Tiffany doesn’t know how to kill it, and Rob won’t leave her side. She realizes that Death must always be close, and thinks of a door. It appears. She takes the hiver (and Rob) through the door to a desert, but the hiver insists it doesn’t know how to die because it doesn’t truly exist—it is only made up of the pieces of everyone it took over. Tiffany tells it a story: that all beings are just that, made up of all the people and histories that create them. She names the hiver Arthur, and tells it to cross the desert to its death. It leaves and Tiffany begins to get sleepy, which Rob forbids. The door she created is gone. Death arrives and explains that you can’t get in the same way you get out, and that she mustn’t fall asleep here. Tiffany thinks she’ll die here, but Granny Weatherwax opens the door, pointing out that the rules Death gave her were never her rules and of course she can get back out. Tiffany comes to and everyone is looking over her. Annagramma tries to pass it all off as her going mad, but no one is listening to her anymore: Granny gave Tiffany her hat. The Trials begin and all the girls want Tiffany to say what she did and bring Granny down a peg. Both Tiffany and Granny refuse to participate, and bow to each other at the conclusion.
Jeannie knows that Rob is coming home and has the clan prepare for his return. A week later Tiffany goes to visit Granny Weatherwax and finds the hive of bees formed into the shape of a witch. They dance together, and Tiffany feels the happiest she’s ever been in her life. Granny invites her into the cottage and Tiffany returns her hat, because she reckons she needs to find her own. Granny tells her that the best hat is a hat you make for yourself. Tiffany points out that doing the whole misadventure at the Trials made it into a show, which Granny confesses was the point—because a little show is good for a witch’s reputation now and again. Granny asks if Tiffany’s grandmother had a hat or coat, and Tiffany tells her not really; Granny says that she made the sky her hat and the wind her coat. She agrees to teach Tiffany one lesson, which is that things don’t matter, but people do. Then she tells Tiffany to drop her horse necklace in the well, but Tiffany refuses. This pleases Granny because “if you don’t know when to be a human being, you don’t know when to be a witch.” Tiffany gives her the cloak she got at Zakzak’s, insisting that it suits her, and Granny says she could come by again sometime. Tiffany begins doing her grandmother’s work and the Chalk has decided that it’s proud to have her as their witch. She gets rid of the gaudy hat from Zakzak’s and makes her hat from sky, as Granny Aching did.
It’s hard to put into words the way it feels to watch Tiffany and Esme find one another and come to realize that they’re exactly what the other needs.
Tiffany who needs another grandmother after losing the one who defined her, who misses the person who loved and understood her exactly as she was, who is looking for someone who knows the value of good silence. Esme who was never regretful over eschewing marriage and children, but desperately in need of a successor. Who maybe, in her old age, would like to be a grandmother to someone, provided it’s the right someone.
The heartbreak of Tiffany being good enough and blunt enough to admit that the hiver is staying away from them because it’s holding a piece of her and she’s a little afraid of Mistress Weatherwax. And how there’s nothing overly explicit in the narrative to suggest it, but when you’re familiar with how she puts things, you can tell that Esme appreciates that… but is also a little bit hurt by it. The way the two of them keep tentatively reaching toward each other, continuing to show respect and affection in the only ways they know how, until they come to the realization that they genuinely do meet somewhere in the middle.
Because Esme and Granny Aching are so much alike, really, that it makes sense that they’d both love Tiffany so much. Granny Aching at the Chalk’s yearly sheepdog trials, and how the people would look for the true prize of her approval, while Esme Weatherwax instills that same desire in other witches, that need for even a glimmer of acknowledgment. Both of them fervent defenders of justice, especially for those who cannot help themselves. Both women in favor of simplicity, who know precisely what they enjoy (tobacco, biscuits) and need.
In the end, Tiffany gives Granny something that lets her be just a little bit flash, as she deserves to be (and never willingly allows). Granny gives her a morning of pure joy and magic, dancing with a hive of bees in the shape of a person—and a brief moment where she can see Granny Aching once more. Going through Granny Weatherwax’s attempts to be even a little soft with someone (because she clearly believes that Tiffany deserves that from her) is a priceless thing, too.
There are tacit acknowledgments of the unfairness that life brings in its wake throughout this conclusion, a different manner of “practicing gratitude” if you will. When Tiffany goes home, the Chalk is happy to have their own witch, as she is Granny Aching’s grandchild. It’s modern times, don’t ya know. But it’s impossible to forget that these are the same people who burned down the house of a harmless old woman and let her die for being a “witch” just a few years ago. Then, when Tiffany notes that it wasn’t fair for her to get off scot-free after stealing from Mr. Weavall, Granny Weatherwax’s reply is essentially—life is hard; appreciate when your friends make it easier. It’s worth noting that Tiffany has such spectacular friends by virtue of being an exceptional person in her own right, but that doesn’t really change the nature of this advice. These things aren’t fair, but appreciate them all the same because your suffering needlessly doesn’t fix the problem.
And then there’s Mr. Weavall. Whose story is ultimately a testament to the fact that poverty kills, even in the mildest sense, as the ultimate unfairness: Here is a man waiting to die, so terrified at the thought of being a burden that he spends his only cogent moments each day checking on his savings to make sure he can be buried without fuss. The instant that his financial circumstances change, his desire to live returns—along with the cognitive faculties he’d been allowing to wither. He knew his family was gone, but why dwell in that reality when you have nothing to look forward to but a bare box in a ground. Money changes all of that, giving him the means to look after another and gain her companionship, as well as the ability to buy aids that might make aging a little easier. And again we must note—this is unfair because everyone doesn’t get the same in their old age. But thank goodness Mr. Weavall gets to have it.
And lucky again that the death of Miss Level’s other body ultimately leads to bettered circumstances for her. That could have been a horrifically tragic story were it not for the sharp application of Granny’s headology and pure fortune. Many of the happy endings in this story are full of sorrow when looked at sideways—the hiver being the pinnacle of it all. And all so that Tiffany can learn that her job will sometimes be to help other beings find their way to Death’s desert.
But then, all goods children’s stories should contain ample mentions of death and its inevitability. It’s an important thing to learn quickly in these all-too-brief lives of ours.
Asides and little thoughts:
- It just occurred to me now that Granny and Vetinari and Vimes can all do the disappearing into the shadows thing. Which is making me want a roundtable discussion between the three of them where they describe their rationale behind this ability and (inevitably) argue about it.
- The aside about balloons existing to teach small children not to let go of the string is… bwuh, thinking about that all the time. Never not thinking about that.
- It tickles me extra that Petulia is the one who gets to find her voice and tell Annagramma off, because she’s really the one who needs it more. Petulia is wonderful.
- That nod to Jenny Joseph’s “Warning” prompted me to read the poem again, which is never a bad idea.
Not that many people they dealt with washed their hands at all, Tiffany thought with the primness of a dairy worker.
If Tiffany hadn’t been a witch, she would have whined about everyone being so unfair!
The trees beside the track were less bushy and more pointy—or, if Tiffany had known more about trees, she would have said that the oaks were giving way to evergreens.
There was a snore beside her. It was one of those good solid ones, like ripping canvas.
She strode over the moors as if distance was a personal insult.
Was it true? Maybe that didn’t matter. Maybe it just had to be true enough for Arthur.
At least bones had never frightened Tiffany. They were only chalk that had walked around.
Gossip spreads faster among witches than a bad cold. Witches gossip like starlings.
For a moment, Granny Aching stood there grinning, and then Granny Weatherwax was back. Did she do that, she wondered, or did I do it myself? And do I dare find out?
Next week we begin Going Postal! We’ll read the prologues through Chapter 4.